Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Two pitchers, filled with water
- Small cups (recyclable, if possible) for all participants plus some extra
- Dirt, food coloring, vinegar and other items to make water undrinkable
- A copy of Handout 1, Sad Statistics
Preparation for Activity
- Add dirt, food coloring and vinegar to the water in one pitcher so it looks, smells and is undrinkable. Set the other pitcher of water aside.
- Review the handout. Make note of any facts about the global water situation that you want to share with the group.
Description of Activity
This experiential exercise can powerfully illustrate the real scarcity of water for many people in the world.
Gather the group and invite all to sit comfortably for a meditation. Distribute an empty cup to each participant.
Ask participants to remain seated and to close their eyes or focus on something physical-perhaps their empty cup-while you take their thoughts on a journey. Use words like these. Speak slowly, and pause between sentences:
Imagine that you are far away from here. You are on a large, hot desert. All you can see in every direction is sand, hot desert sand. You must cross to the other side, but you are hot, very hot, too hot. And you are thirsty. You realize you have drunk all your water. You will get more only when you finish crossing the desert. So you move on, slowly, one step at a time, feeling hotter, and drier, hotter, and drier. Until finally, finally, you reach the other side. You know there is water nearby. You are so thirsty. Now slowly, slowly, open your eyes and return to the group, and we'll see about getting some water.
Bring the pitcher of polluted water to participants. Allow participants to smell the contents of the pitcher and begin to pour some into each cup. You will not have to pour many cups before participants notice the water is undrinkable. Wait for a moment to see what happens. Does anyone request fresh water?
Ask the group what it would feel like if this was the only available water to drink. Then, bring out the pitcher of clean water and new cups for any participants for whom you have poured polluted water. Pour clean water for those who want some, and process the activity using these questions:
- What just happened?
- Did our meeting space become like a place where there isn't enough water?
- Where are places like that?
- Whose fault was it that some of our own water was bad?
- Whose fault is it in poor counties?
- What should people do when they don't have enough fresh water?
- What should people do when they have all the water they want but they know that other people are dying of thirst?
Use some facts you have gleaned from Handout 1, Sad Statistics, to illustrate the global need for water. Help the group understand how human actions have affected Earth's water resources-but, make it clear that human action does not cause all water shortages and destructive storms. The world knew severe drought and other deadly conditions long before industrial pollution began and global warming became a problem.
Including All Participants
Be sure to make this activity comfortable for people with special needs. Those who might most need drinkable water should receive it quickly.